Ocala, FL - January 23, 2012 – The weather was beautiful in Ocala, Florida on Sunday as 26 competitors embarked on the first $25,000 HITS Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, of the winter season. It also served as the first qualifying class for the 2012 installment of the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix. Derek Petersen of Archer, Florida and his own Via Dolorosa captured the blue ribbon to highlight the end of the first unrated week of competition at HITS Post Time Farm.
"It was a great win,” said Petersen. “Today's terrific score was a result of a very nice and friendly Grand Prix course, which was just perfect for warming up the season.”
Course designer Jerry Dougherty of Bokeelia, Florida designed a course which saw seven clear efforts in the first round. Sharn Wordley of Ocala, Florida was third to go aboard Filip Amram’s Cedrick and conquered the course fault free. At the end of the first round, five pairsjoined Wordley and Petersen in the jump-off.
First to return in the jump-off was Wordley and Cedrick, who set the pace at four faults in 46.830 seconds. David Jennings of Franklin, Tennessee and Emily Short’s Grande Finale 3E easily overtook the lead next and set the Great American Time to Beat at 44.814 seconds in a fault-free round. Petersen and Via Dolorosa were third to return and shaved nearly a second off the clock with an exciting ride through the finish at 43.545 seconds.
“Via Dolorosa is a great quality horse,” said Petersen. “She’s still green and sometimes spooks up, however, she needs the experience and this was a great day for her. She loves to run, the faster she runs the better she gets, so I’m looking forward to seeing how far she goes this season. It feels great to be back in Ocala for another winter and this was the perfect way to start off.”
Petersen’s score would go unmatched as the remaining four trips fell victim to faults. Kelly Soleau of Ontario, Canada aboard Centre Ice, owned by Bridge Brook Arms & Kelly Soleaukept all the fences intact, however, one time fault placed the team in third, respectively.
After a great win, Petersen is once again on the road to the Pfizer Million with one qualifying Grand Prix class in the books and $7,500 in prize money earned.
“I’d love to make it to the [Pfizer] Million again,” said Petersen, who competed at the inaugural event in 2010 and had a memorable finish in fourth place aboard Jordan Coyne’s Lazaro as the fastest four fault effort. “It was a spectacular time being a part of the first one and doing so well, hopefully this year I’ll be able to have a horse that’s ready to compete.”
The unrated competition at HITS Ocala continues this week with more exciting classes and qualifying opportunities for HITS Championship Weekend, which will take place at HITS-on-the-Hudson from September 7-9. This year, riders will compete for historic honors in the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final, $250,000 HITS 3’ Hunter Prix Final and the third annual Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix. After this week, seven consecutive weeks of A and AA competition will take place from January 31 – March 18 at HITS Ocala.
$25,000 HITS Grand Prix
Placing Horse Owner Rider Prize Money
1 Via Dolorosa Derek Petersen Derek Petersen $7,500
2 Grand Finale 3E Emily Short David Jennings $5,500
3 Centre Ice Bridge Brook Arms & Kelly Soleau Kelly Soleau $3,250
4 Whittaker MVNZ Woodrun Laura Linback $2,000
5 Cedrick Filip Amram Sharn Wordley $1,500
6 Chevalier Linda Radigan Linda Radigan $1,250
7 Charmbacunero TG Show Stables Manuel Torres $1,000
8 Bukowski Conan Filip Amram Sharn Wordley $750
9 GPS Evita Le Bocage, LLC Chris Nelson $750
10 Quick Blue Z Filip Amram Sharn Wordley $500
11 London Paul Halpern Paul Halpern $500
12 Orphan Car Dr. Fernando Cardenas Dr. Fernando Cardenas $500
Photos: Derek Petersen in the irons of his own Via Dolorosa during the $25,000 HITS Grand Prix at HITS Ocala; Derek Petersen and his own Via Dolorosa accept first place honors from HITS' Lisa Engel after the first $25,000 HITS Grand Prix at Post Time Farm in Ocala, FL. © ESI Photography.